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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

5/01/2004

General Strike!

Interesting way to spend May Day.
"When the ferry workers went out, I got the sense that something was happening (in the grassroots labor movement) in the province," said former local Labor Council president Mike Keelan, now active with the action coalition, during the cheque presentation. "That got deflated with the back-to-work legislation. I get the same sense with the HEU (situation). We're at the edge of a precipice and if we stand together, we can defeat these people."
the tyee
I posted earlier at Shotgun about the looming public service general strike which looks good to go on Monday. This is going to pose a real dilemma for British Columbia's NDP. On the one hand there is nothing which they would like to see more than the Campbell government being forced into a corner by public sector unions who are raising the standard of social justice. And, realistically, the NDP having lost a great deal of labour sympathy during its time in office, has no choice but to support the public sector unions.....But, such support carries two huge risks. The first is that most British Columbians are not members of strong public sector unions and are going to be more than a little angry by about Day 2 of any serious job action. The second is that Carol James, if the polls are right, stands a decent shot of becoming Premier next time out. The Liberals are in popularity freefall and a General Strike is not going to help.

What Ms. James has to remember is the old story about riding a tiger: the riding is the easy part, its the getting off which is dangerous. The temptation will be to support the public service unions down the line; but the strategically smart move is to support the rule of law.

If James really wants to win votes and keep her activists happy she might look to the possibility of brokering a deal when Gordo is about punched out. Which could happen very quickly if the strike spreads.

In 1983 Jack Munro met with Bill Bennett and Norman Spector and cut a deal to end "Operation Solidarity". In the present case, James could boost her credibility and her support from non-socialist British Columbians by intervening on behalf of the strikers. That intervention, however, has to be seen as protecting the workers while upholding the rule of law in the face of the Liberal's rather nasty use of retroactive legislation.

It is the opportunity for James to win the next election long before it is even called.

Update: A rather better worked out version of this post is now up at The Tyee.